Fusion breakthrough and NASA’s Artemis drama lead this week’s science news

Fusion breakthrough and NASA’s Artemis drama lead this week’s science news

This week was dominated by space news, starting off with Blue Origin suing NASA over its awarding the Artemis lunar lander contract to SpaceX and ending with NASA formally delaying work on the program to deal with Jeff Bezos’ space company’s complaint.

In between all that, we saw some incredible work from NASA’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter as its ongoing Mars mission evolves well past its original objectives. We also saw some brilliant work done by Caltech scientists who used ripples in Saturn’s rings to probe the interior of the planet.

There was also the report out of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California of a nuclear fusion breakthrough that puts us on the cusp of sustained artificial nuclear fusion, the key to unlocking cheap, clean, and nearly unlimited energy.

Jeff Bezos giving a thumbs up from inside Blue Origin's New Shepherd capsule

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin sues NASA over Artemis lunar lander contract, delaying Artemis mission until 2025

The week began with a Blue Origin lawsuit against NASA in federal court charging that the US space agency’s awarding its Artemis lunar lander mission to SpaceX in April was improper and the bidding process needed to be redone.

Blue Origin is arguing that since the original announcement calling for bids indicated that more than one bid would be selected, NASA shouldn’t have given the contract to just one company, SpaceX. NASA and the US Government Accountability Office rejected that argument, saying multiple awards were a possibility, but were never guaranteed.

Still, the lawsuit is forcing NASA to stop all work with SpaceX on Artemis while it sorts out the lawsuit, with arguments due in court in mid-October and a potential ruling one way or the other on November 1.

The 10-week delay all but assures that NASA will miss its 2024 target for returning astronauts to the Moon, and if Blue Origin’s lawsuit is successful, then the entire bidding process will have to be run again, causing an even greater delay in getting Artemis off the ground.

Nuclear fusion at the National Ignition Facility (2016)

Nuclear fusion test at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 2016 (Image credit: NIF)

Nuclear fusion breakthrough puts humanity on brink of unlimited energy ignition

Nuclear fusion is the kind of thing that straddles fantasy and physics. The idea of nearly limitless energy free of carbon emissions, nuclear waste, or other pollutants is so transformative in its nature that for decades after the first atomic tests in the 1940s it was largely considered impossible.

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